Home > Features >

Sunil Narine’s inauspicious debut brings back memories of Ajantha Mendis

Sunil Narine's inauspicious debut brings back memories of Ajantha Mendis

Sunil Narine is no Shane Warne but the lesson remains the same. If he can instill doubt in a batsman’s mind and keep it there his mystery will never be solved © Getty Images

By Nic Copeland

 

It was always going to be an improbable task. After a handful of First-Class matches and one season of Indian Premier League (IPL), how could we reasonably expect anything special on a Test debut? A debut made against one of the strongest batting line-ups and in conditions which could not be more different to those of Trinidad, the West Indies as a whole or even India. And yet it was not impossible to feel disappointed, maybe even a touch let down, as Kevin Pietersen laid into Sunil Narine’s increasingly friendly offerings on Sunday afternoon.

 

Why should we take it personally? Maybe it’s because in this age of cynicism the opportunities to dream, to experience awe and wonder seem increasingly fleeting. Perhaps it’s why the lure of a great magician remains, even if they must come up with ever greater illusions to grab and retain our attentions. Put simply, people still love a good mystery and in cricket that means spinners.

 

But a good mystery requires that the intrigue endures. And unless you are a fan of Colombo, that means not finding out who did it in the opening scene. On Sunday, it seemed that Narine had been arrested, charged and was awaiting sentencing even before Nick Knight in the Sky box had time to begin his prosecution-by-video. Given that Narine’s unveiler was Pietersen, a man who singularly and admittedly failed to solve the riddle of Saeed Ajmal, this was more the equivalent of being caught by PC Plod than Hercule Poirot.

 

 

The term “mystery spinner” may not have been coined by Gideon Haigh, but it was best and most appropriately used as the title of his wonderful biography of Jack Iverson. Everything about Iverson was a mystery – sometimes even to himself! Deeply insecure about his own special talent, he continually fretted that he had been “found out”. Whether this was objectively true of Iverson is another question but Narine’s inauspicious debut brings to mind Ajantha Mendis, widely considered to have been ”found out” after a promising beginning.

 

Both Narine and Mendis bowl a “carrom” ball, as nominally did Iverson (although Haigh’s description suggests that his huge hands created altogether more vigorous spin) and both have enjoyed success in T20 cricket on the subcontinent. But under Polar opposite circumstances, a Test match in England, they have looked anything but mysterious.

 

Whilst Mendis has faded from view, that is not necessarily the fate that awaits Narine. For one thing they are actually quite different bowlers despite their signature deliveries. Mendis’s bowling relies on a number of subtle variations and great accuracy. Big turn was never his thing. Narine, by contrast, is less accurate but really spins it. In a spell littered with short deliveries he extracted more turn with his stock off-break than Graeme Swann had done earlier in the day. And whilst his carrom ball may not have turned at Edgbaston, it only takes a couple of clicks to find evidence of it doing so, and sharply at that. Accuracy can be worked on; the ability to spin the ball hard is talent.

 

But what about the mystery? Once lost can it ever be regained? If we are talking mechanics, then in the age of video analysis, prolonged mystery is tough to achieve (although Ajmal is giving it a good shot). But mystery is more than mechanics and so is spin bowling. Although never referred to as such, Shane Warne is the greatest mystery spinner the world has ever known. He understood that mystery or deception, which is what we are really talking about, isn’t found merely in the act of delivery but can be created anywhere and at anytime. In fact, most of Warne’s mystery wasn’t even created on the pitch but in television interviews and press conferences, sowing the seeds of doubt in batsmen’ with claims of new deliveries. He then used his natural talent to compound and reinforce those doubts on the field.

 

Narine is no Warne but the lesson remains the same. If he can instill doubt in a batsman’s mind and keep it there his mystery will never be solved.

 

(Nic Copeland is an English cricket writer currently exiled in Belgium. He would have been the next Shane Warne, but sadly he was blessed with a hairline that was healthy and a talent which not so much receded as never really got going. You can read more from him at The Corridor of Discernity and follow his tweets atEuroNic42)

West Indies in South Africa, 2014-15

Dec 26, 2014 (14:00 IST)   at Port Elizabeth

Sri Lanka tour of New Zealand, 2014-15

Dec 26, 2014 (03:30 IST)   at Christchurch

India tour of Australia, 2014-15

Dec 26, 2014 (05:00 IST)   at Melbourne

West Indies in South Africa, 2014-15

Jan 2, 2015 (14:00 IST)   at Cape Town

Sri Lanka tour of New Zealand, 2014-15

Jan 3, 2015 (03:30 IST)   at Wellington

More

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 19, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

New Zealand won by 68 runs

India tour of Australia, 2014-15

Dec 17, 2014  at Woolloongabba, Brisbane

Australia won by 4 wkts

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Dec 17, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

New Zealand won by 7 runs

West Indies in South Africa, 2014-15

Dec 17, 2014  at Centurion

South Africa won by an innings and 220 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Dec 16, 2014  at Colombo

Sri Lanka won by 87 runs

Photos

India vs Australia, 2nd Test at Brisbane

Videos

Ind vs Aus: Dhoni analyses the 4-wicket loss at Brisbane

Akshar Patel picked far too early for Test cricket

Live Cricket Score Ranji Trophy 2014-15, Round 3, Day 2 — All matches: Yuvraj Singh scores 2nd century in his 2nd Ranji game this season

Shahid Afridi, please do not take the innocence away from cricket

South Africa vs West Indies 2014-15: Is Jason Holder a captain or a stooge?

Can Eoin Morgan change England’s limited-overs fortunes?

Australia India Interviews Moments in history Ricky Ponting

South Africa not worried about Test rankings, says Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla

Younis Khan: Was not easy to make name under Saeed Anwar, Basit Ali, Rashid Latif and Moin Khan

ICC World Cup 2015: Punter ejection in Big Bash League puts organisers on high alert

India vs Australia 2014-15: DRS can be used in event of “howlers”, says Ravi Shastri

India vs Australia 2014-15: VVS Laxman preferred Pragyan Ojha as Ravindra Jadeja’s replacement

South Africa vs West Indies 2014: Chance for Rilee Rossouw to make his mark

Akshar Patel picked far too early for Test cricket

ICC World Cup 2015: Will India’s trend of performing against expectations continue?

Moin Khan: Pakistan must carry momentum in ICC World Cup 2015

West Indies tour of South Africa 2014-15: One-sided encounters may suck interest out of series

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

683 Posts | 6 Fans

Mitchell Johnson's 37 wickets against England in Ashes 2013-14

प्रसिद्ध कथक नृत्यांगना सितारा देवी नहीं रही

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

India is becoming our largest overseas market, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says

Bigg Boss 8: Ali Quli Mirza, Renee Dhyani, Upen Patel, Praneet Bhatt, Sonali Raut – who should be evicted this week?

Revealed: The reason why Kishore Kumar’s biopic starring Ranbir Kapoor won’t feature Katrina Kaif!

अभिनेत्री प्रियंका चोपड़ा ने स्वच्छ भारत अभियान में हिस्सा लिया

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here